MT. PLEASANT — It came in the top of the fourth inning
yesterday.

It was a simple sound, but one that has been hard to come by for
junior Nick Rudden. It was the powerful ping of the aluminum bat
that screamed “base hit.”

“It was a good feeling,” Rudden said. “I
haven’t had it for a while.”

He hadn’t had it since March 27, to be exact. With just
seven hits in 49 at-bats (.143) on the season, Rudden’s
performance has dropped off significantly from his 49 hit, .318
showing from a year ago.

Rudden is listed as an infielder, outfielder and designated
hitter on the Michigan baseball roster. Despite starting 43 games
as a sophomore last season — 32 coming at shortstop —
the Englewood, Colo., native has served as a utility player in his
12 starts this year, which have come at shortstop, second base,
left field and DH. But the veteran’s diminished role
doesn’t bother him as long as his team continues to collect
victories.

“(The change) hasn’t been tough at all,”
Rudden said. “Our team has been winning quite a few games.
I’d like to be having a little more individual success, but
as long as we keep winning, I’m going to be happy.”

Michigan coach Rich Maloney attributes Rudden’s decreased
playing time to an improved roster.

“The program now has more depth than it did when (Rudden)
started off as a freshman,” Maloney said. “Quite
frankly, our guys have to perform. If there isn’t production,
then someone else is going to be behind him.”

Aside from receiving fewer starts, Rudden’s move to the
outfield has not been quite as smooth as he had hoped.

“It’s a totally different approach,” Rudden
said of moving away from the diamond. “I’ve got a lot
of work to do. I don’t play the balls off the bat that well,
yet. I just have to keep working on it, and when I get my chances
I’ll just do the best I can out there.”

In addition to his run-scoring hit off Central Michigan starter
Mike Kirschenheiter, Rudden reached first when he was hit by a
pitch in the fifth inning. For a player with a .184 on-base
percentage, standing on the first bag twice — and scoring
both times — in one game is a welcome occurrence.

“It’s always fun to be out there in the
action,” Rudden said. “Hopefully I can build off that.
I’ll just pitch in when I get my chance.”

Throughout the course of his difficult season, Rudden —
with his consistently positive attitude — has kept Maloney
content with his effort.

“Nick’s a great kid,” Maloney said.
“He’s a team player, and I was happy to see him get one
to fall in there. His approach to the game is superb.”

Rudden is willing to be flexible to meet the demands of the
squad, and this fact is not lost on Maloney.

“He’s done whatever I’ve asked,” Maloney
said. “I’m proud of him for that. He just wants to make
a contribution.”

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